I know I can be oblivious to what's around me at times. (One of my favorite t-shirts is "I live in my own little world, but it's okay, they know me here.") I prefer to call it "focus."
And I've never been much on celebrating my own birthday since it's another reminder that I'm not (physically) 21 anymore. (Mentally, I doubt I'll ever 'grow up.')
So I was totally clueless that my wonderful wife had - for a month or so - been surreptitiously planning a surprise birthday party for me.
I almost spoiled it by scheduling a trip to Marseilles the day before, taking the train up early in the morning (four hours), six hours of meetings, train back in the late evening (another four hours). If one of the trains had been just a little bit slower (a strong possibility on this Easter weekend), I would have missed my connection in Nimes and maybe had to stay overnight somewhere ... not sure I would have made it back to Argeles-sur-mer in time for today's lunchtime surprise. (Donna-Lane had been pretty adamant that I get back on Friday night, as were were scheduled to celebrate my birthday together with Barbara's birthday, which falls the day before mine.)
As we left our flat around 1 o'clock, I told D-L to go ahead, I would catch up with her at La Noisette. Wanted to check the lock on the other door, etc. No hurry, no worry.
When I finally moseyed in to the back of the cafe, still oblivious, I was totally blown away to see about 20 of our friends! "Gobsmacked," as my Brit friends say, a word D-L taught me not long after we re-connected almost two years ago.
As we munched appetizers, enjoyed Patricia's delicious chicken, rice & tomato lunch, drank some of Laurent's excellent wines, and finally devoured the birthday cake and my favorite, chocolate eclairs, I reflected a bit on how I had come to meet all these warm, caring people ... each connection different, many from D-L's long history in the village but a few new folks we'd met together ... every one of them authentic and unpretentious.
There were eight different nationalities represented in the room: French, Brit, Danish, Dutch, Scot, Italian, Swiss, and American. And a lot of talent - musicians, artists, writers, teachers, craftsmen, seamen, technology specialists. What we have in common is we love living in Argeles, and we enjoy each other's company.
My birthday's still not special ... but our friends certainly are. And the memories of this day. Thank you all.